Dídac Lee: “It’s not about being the first to do something, but being the first to do it well”

Inspiring people

15/03/2016

Dídac Lee (Figueras, 1974) is the first person to be featured in our series “Inspiring Individuals,” which will appear on our blog every month. He is a leading figure in the technology sector and a role model for many entrepreneurs seeking to start their own business.

He met with us at the offices of Inspirit, one of his companies, located on Avinguda Diagonal in Barcelona. He confessed that in the past two months, he had traveled around the world twice. Work, dedication and effort. Three elements that are crucial to his success. But there's more.

 

Is there a formula for being successful?

Yes, there is one, and it's simple: dedicate 15, 16 or 17 hours a day to something you like. Being very self-critical is also important in order to correct mistakes and learn from them. In fact, the 10,000-hour theory claims that anyone who dedicates 10,000 hours to something will end up knowing a great deal.

It isn't about being the best in the world. You need to be above average at what you do. If you achieve that and invest enough time, you will be successful.

 

Yes, but we live in a culture of immediacy...

This is why it's important that you invest your 10,000 hours into something you truly enjoy rather than into just making a lot of money. Everything, however, takes effort. It requires a process and time to mature, and it isn't easy. It's like your wines. They aren't made overnight.

 

In any case, 10,000 hours are enough to learn, but then you need to maintain those skills. 

Absolutely. I didn't invest 10,000 hours, more like 50,000. As Johan Cruyff said, reaching the top isn't nearly as difficult as staying there.

 

Especially when working in a sector as mercurial as technology...

Precisely. Everything changes very quickly. You might be on top of the world today, but tomorrow it could all fall apart. The life of an entrepreneur is like Dragon Khan, full of highs and lows, and no one is invulnerable or invincible.

The good news is, if you ever hit rock bottom, you can get back on your feet. Of course, you really have to love what you do. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

 

In your case, technology inspired you from a very young age.

Yes, I was lucky or fortunate enough to be obsessed with technology since childhood. My work and my hobby blend in a way that makes it difficult to separate my professional and personal life. They simply co-exist side by side.

 

But this can be risky too.

Yes, because sometimes it's difficult to set limits. You can find yourself working ungodly hours, and it might be better not to push yourself too hard. You have to strike a balance.

 

Speaking of balance... How does one become an F.C. Barcelona board member and one of the most influential businessmen in the tech sector by the age of 42?

I mean, the odds of a 36-year-old guy from Figueras whose parents run a Chinese restaurant becoming a Barça board member are a million to one. Several factors aligned, which brought me in contact with the right people and eventually made one of my dreams come true.

 

So dreams do come true...

Some do, but not all! Originally, my dream was to become a Barça player, not a board member. I mean, some dreams are difficult to achieve, but not impossible.

 

Earlier you mentioned Figueras: from Girona to the world. Which do you identify with more, China or Catalonia? How has each culture shaped your character?

Figueras is the best place to live, because it's halfway between Shanghai and Silicon Valley (laugh). Catalan and Chinese culture have a lot in common, especially when it comes to work, effort and respect.

 

Let's talk about entrepreneurship. Do you think we have abused the word in recent years?

More than a specific profession, entrepreneurship describes the attitude of people who have an idea, turn it into a reality and are willing to take risks. More than a profession, it's an attitude to life, and it isn't limited to young people or the technology sector.

 

What recommendations do you have for entrepreneurs who are starting a business?

They should know that in most cases, they will fail in their first attempt, and their second, perhaps even their third. This is why it's best for entrepreneurs to make their mistakes quickly and cheaply. They have to keep trying and correct their errors as they go. In my field we call this a “lean startup.”

 

How many ideas have you had that ended up not working out? 

50? 60? 100? 200? For something to turn out well, you have to have tried it 10,000 times.

 

Are there still things to be invented?

Of course! We're only at the very beginning! You can always find things that work and make them work better. You don't have to be the most original guy in Catalonia. It's not about being the first to do something, but being the first to do it well.

Google, for example, wasn't the first search engine. There were plenty of earlier alternatives (Altavista, Yahoo), but look where Google is today. Nokia is another case in point. A few years ago, it was the unquestionable leader, and now it barely exists.

 

What project are you most proud of?

Absolutely all of them. Every project is amazing for its own reason. My first company, Fhios, is still around. It is 20 years old and employs over 100 people. Every time I go by the office, I feel incredibly proud. Alpify, our latest venture, is an app that saves lives. Or Tradeinn, e-commerce specialized in the sports industry, which keeps growing every year. They all make me proud.

 

The majority of your companies do well. How does one manage success?

That depends on how you define success. Sometimes you get the feeling that you're doing very well, but then you travel and realize that on a global level, you're nobody. Besides, everything is very fleeting. Maybe you're having a good run now, but you might miss a step and end up having a horrible year. You can't let your guard down, and you have to stay firmly grounded.

 

What is your definition of success?

For me, it doesn't have anything to do with turnover or media exposure. I define success as dedicating yourself to what you love in a way that is sustainable over time.

 

When did you realize that you needed someone to handle your schedule?

I have a lot of positive attributes, but I also have a major flaw: I'm very disorganized. The day I realized that I didn't know who I was meeting and ran into a scheduling mishap, I knew I needed help.


What pops into your head when you hear the word crisis?

Entrepreneurs live in a constant state of crisis. It is always a challenge to secure financing, pay salaries, etc. But this isn't specific to now. This has always been the case. Crisis is a normal, common aspect of the entrepreneur's world.

 

Wrapping things up, what did you spend your first paycheck on?

I didn't earn a salary for seven years. I only made enough to eat. I reinvested what should have been my salary into hiring new staff for the company.

 

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A BRIEF TASTE

 

Do you like wine?

I like it, but I can't drink too much. Like many Asians, I turn bright red when I drink alcohol.

 

What is the best moment to enjoy a glass of wine?

It's always a good moment. Lunch, dinner, a celebration...

 

A song to accompany a good wine.

Any slow song by Estopa.

 

A place to get lost in.

Peratallada.

 

If you could be reincarnated, who or what would you be?

I'd come back as Yoda.

 

What do you do in your free time?

Play video games, ride quads, go to hip-hop concerts.

 

A flaw and a virtue.

Virtue, perseverance. Flaw, perseverance.

 

What did you want to be as a kid?

I wanted to invent robots.

 

And when you're older?

I'd like to be like my business partner, Xavier Rubió. He's a crack.

Categorías: Inspiring people